Near-miss: Unauthorised release of shore-controlled mooring lines

A member has reported a near miss incident in which mooring lines were released from shore without permission from the vessel bridge. The incident occurred when the vessel started singling up her mooring lines for departure from a shipyard. The vessel was loaded with a module, which restricted the view aft from the bridge. The vessel was moored ‘Mediterranean style’, including her stern, with two bow anchors, six wire ropes and two conventional mooring lines. Four of the six wire ropes were under shore control.

When the crew of the vessel (with pilot on board) started to single up her mooring lines, the four wire ropes under shore control at the aft side of the vessel were simultaneously released by shore side personnel. This was done without permission from the bridge, when the tugs were not yet in position. This release of the mooring lines could not be observed from the bridge. The bridge was notified with some delay by an additional lookout aft of the vessel. By swiftly ordering propulsion astern, the vessel master avoided heavy stress and possible breakage of the two remaining mooring lines. The vessel remained under control and a tug was made fast before releasing the remaining two mooring lines.

There were no injuries, damage to assets or uncontrolled vessel movements, owing to the swift and effective action from the vessel master.

Our member’s investigation revealed the following:

  • A pre-departure meeting with all involved parties was carried out two days prior departure. Due to adverse weather, it was clearly stated at that meeting that the vessel would single up line by line;
  • Proper precautions were taken, such as hazard identification (HAZID), toolbox meetings and Job Safety Analyses, mooring/unmooring plans;
  • Actual departure was delayed by last minute modification works on the cargo;
  • The vessel master repeatedly refused to start to single up as the gangway was still in place due to delayed works on the cargo;
  • The release of the shore side mooring lines was not stopped by the vessel’s superintendent;
  • The vessel’s superintendent was not equipped with a radio. It was agreed to communicate by mobile phone.

Following the incident, our member drew the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • The last minute modification works on the module and the resulting delay of departure were improperly and ineffectively communicated to and between parties involved. The delay resulted in a change, for which Management Of Change procedures should have been followed in order to effectively prevent the incident as occurred;
  • Reliance on mobile cell phones for operations is inadequate. All responsible parties should communicate by radio with an agreed protocol;
  • Effective and immediate communication between the vessel master and the vessel superintendent is a vital and critical safety factor during such operations and should be catered for accordingly in project execution plans;
  • The shore-based linesmen provided by the shipyard clearly demonstrated a lack of awareness of the risks involved. To lower these risks, when employing third-party personnel for critical operations, the qualifications and training of those personnel involved should be prominently addressed and audited beforehand in project HSE plans.